Why aren't wireless handshakes sent using TLS? It seems like it would be relatively simple to implement, perhaps having the vendor insert the private key into the routers. That way WPA/WPA2/WEP encryption couldn't be cracked by capturing parts of the handshake sent in plain text.

  • WPA2 only vulnerable in that way when using TKIP. Adding TLS to the wireless handshake would mean that each client would have to generate a certificate. Or users would have to have a username and password to authenticate to the wireless access point. This seems unnecessary, and using WPA2-PSK AES is more than adequate.
    – RoraΖ
    Oct 2, 2014 at 17:10
  • 3
    Isn't this just EAP-TLS? en.wikipedia.org/wiki/…
    – user56893
    Oct 2, 2014 at 17:20
  • That's what first came to mind. How is PKI implemented in EAP-TLS? Oct 2, 2014 at 17:22
  • Identity authentication is via certificates and a RADIUS server. For everything you need to know see section 4.2.1 of the following document: cisco.com/en/US/products/sw/secursw/ps2086/…
    – user56893
    Oct 2, 2014 at 17:31
  • From a pragmatic standpoint: “client-side certificate requires a PKI server infrastructure (rare for most organizations) to be in place ahead of time or expensive third-party certificates, it automatically excluded EAP-TLS as a feasible option for most organizations” (Ou, 2005).
    – user56893
    Oct 2, 2014 at 17:35

2 Answers 2


SSL relies in TCP/IP. TCP/IP relies on the physical and data link layer to have been established. WiFi is part of physical and data link layers. The idea being that you need the lower level links to be established before you can carry on a conversation at the high level.

It's a little like asking why can't a distant person who's only reachable by radio communicate the frequency to listen on in english. Because to communicate in english, you first have to have a radio link, which means knowing the frequency.


Well, first of all TLS is on a totally DIFFERENT OSI level than 802.11 802.11 is on layer 2, TLS is on layer 3/4/5 (it has a few parts) so you simple can not use it in this manner. and modifying it for that purpose is just as hard as creating (what they have done) a new one.

The handshake is not send in 'plaintext', its semi-ciphered. (similarly as how a RSA handshake works). the only reason it's "crackable" is because you always end up with a system that can be cracked. (you have to yield to much information to the environment) the only method to prevent it is by using more aggressive cipher switching (costs a lot more computational power, and limits bandwidth).

EAP-TLS works on a later state than when the handshake between router / client happens) (layer 3/4)

just adding 'crytoware' to a line does NOT mean its more secure. and having it work for all devices is a problem that is still not fully solved.

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